By Sarah Hamaker
Q: My 16-year-old son has yet to want to drive. I think he’s afraid, too. Even his friends drive and he doesn’t seem to care. Also, we plan on buying him a car because the minivan isn’t suitable for him, and my husband’s car has manual transmission. He’s insisting that driving is too dangerous. This is on par with some of his other fears, and his social immaturity, but I don’t want to encourage his fears or push him into driving if he isn’t ready. What can we do?
A: I imagine there are many parents of teenagers out there who are wishing their 16-year-olds didn’t want to drive, either. And yet, I hear your concerns. First, I wouldn’t worry overmuch about this. He’ll likely outgrow his fear of driving on his own if you stop making a big deal about it.
Second, hold off on the car buying for a while. Don’t mention it, don’t harp on it, just let the whole thing drop.
Third, you’re not coddling him to delay his driving. Let him pick the right time for him to learn. However, if his not driving starts to put more pressure on the family—for example, he has a part-time job that requires picking up and dropping off that interferes with the rest of the family schedule—then you can help him want to learn to drive by easing back on being his chauffeur. Not that you refuse to take him places, but that you only do so when it’s convenient for him.
A final thought: stop worrying about his fear of driving or his fears in general. The more you talk about fears with a child—no matter the age—the more those fears can become real to the kid. Somehow, it can legitimize the fears in the child’s mind. If he starts talking about his fear of driving, change the subject. If he can’t seem to stop talking about his fears in general, you can tell him something like, “Oh, we’ve already talked about that and there’s nothing else for me to add.”
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Sarah Hamaker is a certified Leadership Parenting Coach™ through the Rosemond Leadership Parenting Coach Institute. She’s also a freelance writer and editor. Sarah lives in Fairfax, Va., with her husband and four children. Visit her online at www.parentcoachnova.com and follow her on Twitter @novaparentcoach.